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First drive: Lexus RC F
This is new Lexus RC F, the posh Toyota’s two-door coupe competitor for the BMW M4, Jag F-Type R, Audi RS5, etc. It uses a lot of the outgoing IS F saloon’s architecture - the base chassis is largely the same - but with plenty of new stuff, too. The naturally aspirated 5.0-litre engine looks like a carryover from the IS F but everything in there other than the block is brand new.
The net result is a hike in power to over 470bhp. Which is good. Less good is the fact that all that new-found power has to drag a good 90kg more along for the ride compared with the IS F. To make up for this, the RC F is festooned with more electronic systems than a Currys catalogue.
What systems are we talking about here?
Well, there’s a four-mode drive mode selector for the eight-speed transmission - you get to choose between Eco, Sport, Sport + and Manual (using the paddles).
Then there’s the Vehicle Integrated Dynamics Management, which conducts all the car’s systems from the level of steering assistance to the ABS. This also has four modes - Normal, Sport, Off, Off with Expert - which offer decreasing levels of intervention. The Expert bit is a safety net that is designed to protect you from yourself when you overcook a corner.
And then there’s the optional torque-vectoring differential or TVD. This acts independently of the drive mode selector, which helps the RC F to turn more crisply. This, you won’t be surprised to hear, also has several modes: Normal, Slalom and Track.
So how does all that lot feel?
Surprisingly good up to about seven tenths on a track. As long as you stay smooth the car hides its weight quite well, the gearbox fires up and down swiftly and the engine makes all the right - if slightly assisted by a noise synth - normally aspirated V8 noises. It’s what happens beyond seven tenths that we are less fond of. It will still go blazingly fast, but you either have to leave the systems engaged and feel like a bit of a passenger. Or switch them all off and find your own way through the car’s foibles.
Like it’s bizarre inconsistency in its cornering attitude. It could have just been our pre-prod car’s new yaw sensors playing up, according to the Lexus engineer, but whatever it was it didn’t endear the car to us in the track. When the switch says off, we expect the system to be off. Not lurking and pouncing when we least expected it. Also the flat refusal to allow us to do a burn out was another black mark.
What was it like on the road?
Much better. All of the issues from driving it on the track melt away and you are left with a quick and well-appointed coupe that is a very pleasant place to be. Playing with all the systems you can sharpen up the car’s character when you want to then back it off quickly for a comfortable cruise. Just what you want.
How does it compare with the competition?
Subjectively it feels somewhere between the Audi RS5 and the F-Type R. The lighter, more delicate M4 would probably run away and hide on a track. But as a road car, where the weight is less of an issue, it makes a good fist of being noticeably and positively different.
The organically oozy styling finally makes sense of that spindle grille, the NA V8 has enough soul to keep the car interesting, despite all that electrical assistance. And there will be less than 200 of them in the UK (just over 2200 in the US), so they will remain exclusive.
I’m not sure it would be my choice of coupe right now, but if it was yours I’d completely understand.